TRIESTE, Italy — International Talent Support — also known as ITS — is back. The 16th edition of the event aimed at promoting the next generation of young designers and offering them financial support, as well as publicity, named its winners on Wednesday here.
The contest went through a one-year hiatus due to scarcity of funds and the loss of two longtime sponsors. Barbara Franchin, founder and director of the talent scouting competition, said this caused a “shock” and she “decided to stop and take time to reflect on what we’ve done, who we are, what’s the contest’s purpose, focusing on the people we helped, if we actually helped any.” Answers came via ITS’ longtime supporters and its team, leading Franchin to bring the contest back.
An international jury gathered at the Magazzino 42 venue, a former warehouse on one of the Italian city’s many piers, to evaluate the works of 30 finalists selected among more than 900 applications ITS received from students from 80 countries. The projects were divided into four categories: fashion, accessories, jewelry and artworks. Collections were showcased with a runway show, while the other projects were displayed through a dedicated exhibition.
OTB’s founder and chairman Renzo Rosso was one of the earliest supporters of the contest when it was established in 2001, first with Diesel and then with the brand’s parent company. Rosso returned to back the scouting program for its latest edition, along with a diverse range of companies including Swatch and coffee-maker Illycaffè, among others.
Supporting young talents is key to Rosso, who contended he has “always believed in youth and freshness, when I started my career I surrounded myself with young people and I understood that I could grasp fresh, uncontaminated energy and bring it into the company.”
The executive stressed the importance of staying consistent and bringing true creativity into the products’ development because, he explained, “I want to make real clothes with a high [creative] content to them. If you want to stay in this business you have to create something that becomes relevant to your customers so that they look for you, otherwise you can only fight on [lower] prices.”
Rosso mentioned the Diesel Red Tag project, which has enlisted Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver and Y/Project’s Glenn Martens on its first two iterations. Although the OTB founder said a capsule collection with one of the ITS’ finalists is “unlikely,” he is open to mentor “talents coming from ITS and after a couple of years, when they acquire visibility, recruit them for the [Red Tag] project.”
Other members of the jury included Silvia Venturini Fendi; Marni creative director Francesco Risso; the Italian fashion chamber president Carlo Capasa; Stefano Martinetto, chief executive officer of Tomorrow London Holdings Ltd. and Riccardo Vannetti, director of the Tutorship division at Pitti Immagine, who was named chief marketing officer at the Salvatore Ferragamo Group on Thursday, among other jurors.
London-based designer Eleanor McDonald scooped up the ITS Award, a cash prize of 15,000 euros and a 12-month tutorship backed by Pitti Immagine, which will enable her to present a capsule collection at the fair’s January edition. The designer also took home the CNMI Award and the Tomorrow awards with a men’s collection focused on tailoring in which unusual proportions came via wide-legged, high-waisted suit pants paired to cropped, boxy jackets and floor sweeping double-breasted coats. A feminine touch was infused in the eight-piece lineup through midnight-blue turtleneck cropped tops contrasting with the black suits.
To mark its return to the scouting arena, this year ITS invited finalists to present “so bold, almost incredible” collections. However, the jury appeared largely led by the marketability of designs in delivering the awards. To wit, Martinetto pointed to the “opportunity to see a talent actually become a sustainable brand, although appreciative of craftsmanship and experimentation I stand by those designers with the right tools to really launch their own independent business,” he said.
“Get back to design, to clothes with a highly qualitative, sartorial feel to them,” echoed Capasa, who handed the CNMI Award consisting of a prize of 5,000 euros, backed by the institution’s Fashion Trust.
The Diesel Award — bestowed to the designer who had created a denim outfit reinterpreting the collection’s concept in the most creative way — was given to British-born Tolu Coker, who won a six-month internship at the OTB-owned label. Coker showcased a collection aimed at spotlighting inclusivity, with references to hip-hop culture where denim was largely employed on patchworked, urban silhouettes for men and women and as a floral embroidery on a bias-cut tulle dress. The 24-year-old designer scooped up the Vogue Talents Special Mention and the “ITS Time for Coffee” awards as well, offered by Vogue Italia and by Illycaffè, respectively.
The OTB Award, handed by Risso, who invited talents to keep being “extremely creative,” was a double award bestowed to fashion designers Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena, as well as to Chinese milliner Tingting Zhang. The prizes consist of 10,000 euros and the chance to intern at one of the group’s brands.
Also in the accessories category, Eliana Zurlo scooped up a special prize awarded by Tomorrow London Holdings Ltd., which will offer her the opportunity to showcase her creations at Tomorrow Sneakers Atelier in Paris. The Italian shoe designer presented an innovative footwear collection introducing high-performance outsoles to “encourage physical activity, because our lives have become too sedentary,” she said.
The Swatch Award was bestowed to Finnish designer Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen for her ability to translate her fashion collection into a piece of art. Kiilunen will receive a prize of 10,000 euros, as well as a six-month internship at Swatch Lab in Zurich.
The contest’s 15 editions have provided a remarkable archive, featuring outfits, accessories and talents’ portfolios, including those of Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, Mark Fast, Peter Pilotto and Richard Quinn, among others. The ITS archive is housed in a small attic inside an 18th-century palazzo in the city center. Franchin said the archives call for a larger space “to display all the collections we have, some of them are also in need of restoration, and to house a laboratory to launch a new project called ‘Each One Teach One,’ a space where former finalists can give back to younger generations,” she explained.
Her wish came true as Trieste’s mayor Roberto Dipiazza on Wednesday night took to the runway and announced the municipality will offer ITS a former warehouse space called Magazzino 26, to accommodate the new archive.